Monday, February 6, 2012

The Tarnish of Time

In 2010, I got an idea. I had started wearing makeup more regularly than in previous years (the reasons why are a lengthy footnote, not worthy of this post), and I discovered that virtually no makeup removers really worked well. They either required excessive swiping at my eyes with alcohol-based products, ow ow ow, or they were greasy, or they, like, didn't remove anything. I decided to try cold cream, that old standby of 1950's movie stars and today's theater stars. And it worked perfectly. And it made my skin happy. It was by far the best makeup remover I tried (although it was also the messiest), out of a dozen at least.

However, the only scents of cold cream I could find in the commercial market (and in a lot of searching, I could only find two brands of it) were flowery. They smelled like a grandmother. Which makes sense, you know, because young people don't really use cold cream. But if you ask me, they should, because it works so perfectly at taking off any makeup you have on, waterproof stuff, primer, lipstick, eyeliner, whatever. So I thought the thing to do would be to create and market a line of cold creams with hip young scents, like cucumber melon and lavender vanilla, and corner the makeup-removal market, and become rich and fabulous.

After talking to Matt's aunt, a very knowledgeable serial entrepreneur, I was faced with the problem of whether there was a "need" in the makeup market for my cold creams. I mulled over this for about a week, and finally decided that no, I guess there really isn't a need. There are tons of makeup removers on the market, and trying to wedge in another one was probably not a good idea without big corporate dollars behind it. A very small survey indicated that most women my age weren't as dissatisfied with their makeup removers as I had been. I was quite disappointed, because I had been really gung-ho about my idea (and frankly still think it's a pretty good one, and if I become rich and fabulous by some other method, I might spend a little of my wealth on creating this product anyway, just to see what happens), and it hurt a lot to chuck it on the pile of Unworkable Ideas.

The funny thing I noticed about my idea was that after a few months of kicking it around in my brain, it began to seem tarnished and unlikely. As time passed, it sounded more and more as if it was a stupid idea, far-fetched, and even if it could be pulled off by, say, Burt's Bees (maybe), it sure couldn't be pulled off by lil' me, with a negative amount of business experience and no assets and nothing but an idea to re-new-ify an old (ancient, really) and near-forgotten and still-awesome product.

As the weeks have passed between me and the finished first draft of my Greenland book, the same tarnishing effect has happened. I haven't gotten any detailed feedback except for the one friend, and everyone else has used the word "interesting", without specifics, which makes me think it is a PIECE of SHIT, and they're too nice to tell me so. And I look back at the draft and I think, what was I thinking? How did I even begin to believe that I'd written a coherent novel, when it was just a big jumble of genres and characterization and absolutely no plot momentum aside from And Then This Happened? I can put sentences together, sure, but this novel is the worst thing ever and no one will even tell me how to fix it because IT CAN'T BE FIXED.

I know that all writers go through ups and downs as to how they view their work. I believed in this book once, and I'll believe in it again, surely. This is just a rough patch, a moment of gaping black insecurity that I'll hop handily over and be on my way.

But I think it's affecting the current work, too. For the last week I've found all sorts of things to do other than work on the draft of the horror novel (yes, I have been legitimately busy and legitimately mildly ill with a cold), which is at 72,000 words, and I've got to write this final act, now, make real decisions about the structure of the fantasy elements and stick by them, decide who's going to die and who's going to stay dead, stand by those decisions. I am a big wimp, though, because two of the characters I intended from the very start to kill 4realz are so nice and lovely that I don't want them to stay dead. I've got to break the reader's heart, that's my job, but I don't even want to break my own.

And I look back and wonder if the structure of this thing, the whole conceit of the villain and her abilities, is just idiotic rather than cool. If I'm not just whistling merrily through a landfill. If I haven't actually made a real bungle of it all, and it doesn't hang together, and I am the worst writer in the history of the written word, all the way back to Ung the Caveman and his charcoal scribbles on the wall of his cave. Ung, at least, had a consistent vision for his scribbles, right? Me, I crib from my dreams and hang feathers on it and call it art.

Or, no! I'm worthy! I'm brave and true! I need to get down to business and finish the draft and believe in it strongly enough to move on to the next project. Go me! Jump over that gigantic ravine of insecurity and walk on down the path, where there be scary monsters and super creeps, but I can defeat them with my mighty pen.

Or, I'm already at the bottom of the ravine and weakly calling for help. And people are throwing books down at me, books with tomatoes on the covers. And they are big and leave bruises.

Or, I should just stop all this and get to work.

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